Last night I sat with two friends in a pizza place and watched hail the size of golf balls fall for minutes. It was exciting to see a storm so powerful and aggressive, but it was difficult to imagine what the storm was doing to the gardens.
On my way home I stopped by the garden on Chicago Ave first. The first thing I checked on was the arugula I was planning on harvesting in the morning to sell to the Inspiration Kitchen in Garfield Park. I was relieved that it looked like we could still get the 6# we needed. That’s pretty much where the relief ended though. Every row of the garden was dotted with golf ball sized indentations separated by only an inch or two–nearly completely covered. Every tomato plant was more than half defoliated and often snapped clear in two. Looking across to the tomatillos and peppers, I could see that entire yard-long sections were completely leveled. Turning around to the squash and corn, however, I saw the worst damage.
The broad leaves of the squash plants that had looked so healthy the day before were almost entirely destroyed and removed from every plant. We had had a hard time with our squash plants all season–they had damping off problems and had not gotten enough sun while in the greenhouse. When we transplanted them they were yellow, stunted, and their stems were often more than half rotten. We put a lot of time and energy into nursing them back to health, and it had paid off. Last week we had pruned and plucked the flowers off of them for the last time and had decided that they were finally healthy and vibrant enough for us to leave them to grow, flower, and fruit. And they were–there are more than a few small squashes! Seeing them destroyed by the storm was probably the most depressing of all the crops for me.
Well, that’s how it went, I suppose. Today I’m going to check our insurance policy and see if we have any coverage for hail damage. Then I’m going to call a few seed companies and see if anyone has some overstock that they might be willing to send to us. And I’m going to start to reseed all the areas that won’t bounce back. I think most of it will bounce back though. One of my favorite parts of farming is seeing the strength of the plants will to live.